Nick Saban doesn’t like it and neither do I. But unlike Saint Nick, I understand it’s what college football is in 2012. I’m talking the kind of offense that wins in today’s game and sooner rather than later, Saban, Mark Richt and a host of other premiere programs will be embracing it. Or at least they better.
What it’s not: simply the spread option. That’s what we call every offense with zone read principles that can get the quarterback outside the defensive end, most times without even a back to potentially pitch to. In the last good days of Urban Meyer at Florida (vastly different than just “the last days”) he had created an inverted triple option with the pitch man actually in front of the quarterback. Most often this was the tight end and the time it would take him to come behind the offensive linemen and down the line of scrimmage towards the center was the perfect amount of time for the quarterback to already be through his first read of “give or keep” with the dive back. I have to stop now because I’m about to get far too X and O geeky and the article will veer far off course. And speaking of the Veer . . .
What a great offense (thank you, Bill Yeoman!). As long as you have a quarterback who will option straight down the line of scrimmage and not angle back at all, the Veer will include inside and outside running plays where a defensive lineman many times is simply left unblocked. That defender will have to choose “dive or quarterback” or “quarterback or pitch” and leaving him unblocked lets the offense devote an extra player to double-teaming another defender. If the quarterback makes the correct read, in about one second, and the double team is effective, H U G E gains are possible and on a very regular basis.
But that’s not what offense in college football today is, either. At least not totally. And to be honest, the concept I’m talking about isn’t truly just about a scheme and the plays you can call within it. It’s about three things: speed and pace of play and conditioning.
What Meyer was doing at UF when he won two national championships in three seasons? Great. What Rich Rodriguez did at West Virginia with Pat White was even better.
Cam Newton, Gus Malzahn and the 2010 Auburn offense? Unreal. The Quack Attack at Oregon over the past few seasons? Even closer to perfection of the principles I’m talking about.
If you’re going to be successful offensively in the modern version of college football there is no more standing in the huddle for 12 seconds, walking to the line of scrimmage, aligning with two backs and a tight end and then snapping the ball with the play clock at :04. Those days are over. And if you’re one of the very few teams who still insist on playing with that approach you’d better have three times the talent of the team across the field from you. Alabama normally does. LSU is close to it. There are a few others, and at some elite programs, but the direction college football has gone is about running to the line, snapping the ball, having INSANELY fast players at running back and quarterback (whereas previously it was receiver) and simply wearing out heavy defensive linemen and one-step-too-slow linebackers. Those with a “Who’s bigger and stronger??” mentality are being left behind, and quickly.
And it’s not simply about loading up on 5-star stud athletes that every huge program wants and them turning the game into a track meet. Percy Harvin was one of those players. He wound up as a 1st round pick in the NFL draft after leaving Florida and has already been to a pro bowl. The aforementioned Pat White, from WVU, was not a 1st round pick and was out of the NFL entirely after totaling 81 yards rushing and zero yards passing in one very forgettable season. Despite that contrast in production at the next level, both players were nearly perfect fits for modern offense in college.
The route to success today means recruiting as much offensive speed as possible, getting to the line of scrimmage and snapping the ball as quickly as possible and being much better conditioned to sustain that pace than the opponent’s defense is.
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